My friend in Eastern Europe grew up in the fading days of the Soviet Union. The only Christian family in her small village, when she was eight-years-old, she was brought to the school office and asked if her parents made her go to church. Her mom had tried to prepare her for such a moment. She could trust the Holy Spirit.
She responded, “No, I want to go to church.”
If she said her parents made her go to church – something children in the “free” world may still say – she would have been removed from her home and put into an orphanage.
Why Are Little Girls Treated So Unjustly?
God is the Righteous One. He is right, does what is right and commands what is right.
Moses sings this truth over Israel, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
The Psalms make this a recurring heart song of God’s people: “For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face” (Psalm 11:7).
But the prophets also present a disturbing quandary: “Righteous are You, O Lord, that I would plead my case with You; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1).
If Almighty God is righteous, why all the unrighteousness? Why are little girls treated so unjustly?
Jesus knew the righteousness of the Father. In his great prayer, he says, “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me” (John 17:25).
Jesus’ coming was rooted in righteousness.
It is right. His coming will reveal what is right. And, like Jeremiah’s quandary, it will also reveal that what is right is often deemed wrong. Righteousness often suffers – like a little girl in a principal’s office – great injustice. Righteousness is often hated.
Peter charges the religious leaders for this in their handling of Jesus: “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you” (Acts 3:14). The blessed life is ours precisely because righteousness was despised and rejected.
Hunger Pangs For Righteousness
To grow into the likeness of our Father is to hunger and thirst for his righteousness (Matthew 5:6). The blessed and enviable life comes as we get hunger pangs for righteousness in this world that can champion the opposite.
The blessed and enviable life comes as we get hunger pangs for righteousness in this world that can champion the opposite.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
The blessedness of the persecuted is their impending reward when all that is unjust is judged. The first Christians embraced this blessedness. Within weeks of the resurrection, the apostles thought it a great honor to suffer for Jesus’ sake (Acts 5:41). Peter instructs the disciples in his care, “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).
The apostle Paul rejoiced in suffering for the sake of the churches (Colossians 1:24). And, underlining what Jesus declared in the beatitudes, Paul describes the believer’s honor: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…” (Philippians 1:29).
Which life is the most blessed and enviable: the adult cornering the eight-year-old or the eight year-old cornering the adult?
Whose life reveals they belong to the kingdom of heaven – the same inheritance Jesus promised to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)?
This blessedness powerful. But there is a fine line. As Peter said, suffering for doing good is blessedness; suffering for being a bully, selfish or doing unjustly is justly warranted. The disciples of Jesus are to share his own rejection for what is good, right, true and just. If we are to suffer it is because it will make Jesus shine and reveal the life in God’s Kingdom. The righteousness we thirst for in the world is to become the righteousness we are willing to endure hardship for. This is the joy of the followers of Christ.
Suffering for doing good is blessedness; suffering for being a bully, selfish or doing unjustly is justly warranted.
Slow Down And Consider
Do you know stories of persecution for Jesus’ sake? Perhaps you should search them out.
How are you living your Father’s righteousness? Followers of Christ will grow as those who know true righteousness and live the enviable life even before those who make them suffer because of Jesus. These blessed ones don’t seek suffering to make a point, they seek the Righteous One to become his point of light and passion in the world. And, this prophetic passion will bring true life to and disturb a self-righteous world.
How will you seek the Righteous One today? How will you grow in and practice his righteous passion? Are you prepared to be an ambassador of Christ and his righteousness today?